It’s been just a few months since Howe Sound acquired its newest artificial reef in the form of the HMCS Annapolis. Already, the decommissioned navy destroyer, which was sunk in April, has become home to a variety of species that are quickly turning the ship into an active aquatic ecosystem. Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre’s Howe Sound Research Group has been tracking life on the reef as a partner in the Artificial Reef Society of B.C.’s Annapolis Biodiversity Index Study (ABIS). Over the next five years, we’ll be collaborating with citizen scientists to track species and abundance scores to see how sea life colonizes this new reef.
So far, the results are impressive!
From just four species observed in May, the biodiversity climbed to 29 in November. Our taxonomist Donna Gibbs added 10 new species to her list during a recent 20-minute dive. Here, we highlight a few of the creatures who’ve started calling Annapolis home:
These fish were among the first to colonize the Annapolis. Recognized by their shimmery, silvery sides, these perch are commonly seen in shallow coastal areas, including eelgrass beds and around piers.
Best known in B.C. as a sustainable seasonal seafood source, these distinctive shrimp were observed moving onto the Annapolis in September, much to the chagrin of Juvenile Copper Rockfish, which showed up around the same time. Both species are a vital part of B.C.’s coastal ecosystem, but it may take them a little while to figure out how to share the Annapolis, as this video shows them engaged in fierce competition for space.
These crustaceans are among the latest arrivals to the Annapolis. Observed on dives in November, pygmy crabs are likely lured by food sources such as barnacles and small sea stars. They seem to have found a comfortable home hiding in the ship’s many nooks and crevices, using their rounded carapace to block the opening of their newfound homes.
Barnacles were also among the first residents to move onto the Annapolis, providing food for sea stars, which showed up this fall.
These other-worldly hydroids were also early arrivals to the Annapolis, observed on dives in July. These tree-like organisms provide food for nudibranchs and crustaceans, as well as a handy hangout spot for spot prawns.
An important food source for herbivores, such as chitons, algae arrived on the reef by November. So far we’ve observed three distinct types: branching red algae, filamentous red algae (pictured) and coralline algae.
You can also help us as we build our catalogue of life on the Annapolis. If you’re a diver, check out our Annapolis web page to find out how to submit your photos and video to the study. And learn more about the hidden gems in Howe Sound during our Divers’ Weekend Jan. 16-17, 2016.
The Howe Sound Research Group is part of the Vancouver Aquarium’s Coastal Ocean Research Institute, an independent, collaborative research body dedicated to collecting, analyzing and communicating research about the health of our coast ecosystems and Canada’s West Coast.